“Collective security” has been the aspirational phrase attached to the United Nations since its birth in April 1945, a slogan that made abundant sense amid the rubble of the Second World War. Peace would be a global cause and, together, the nations of the world would exert their will upon antagonistic countries. Who, after all, wished to repeat the carnage of the last six years? What sane leader would tempt a nuclear fate? And yet, as 170 heads of state gathered in New York last week to celebrate the organization’s 60th anniversary, real security remained a dream.
Somehow, events have passed the UN by. Broken governments, rogue leaders, ethnic rivalries and nonstate terrorist groups—these are the forces begetting war in today’s world, and none are the kind of thing you can tackle with a Security Council resolution. There were hopes this fall that a reform package would empower the unwieldy body against the foes of peace, but it too has fallen by the wayside. The so-called “responsibility to act” provision (so cherished by the Martin Liberals) was overshadowed by the 750-odd amendments introduced by Washington’s tough-talking
ambassador, John Bolton, which effectively gutted the reform initiative. Meanwhile, the corruption scandal surrounding Iraq’s oil-for-food program discredited both the organization and Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
These failures and others have highlighted the UN’s many underlying troubles: persistent suspicion of multilateralism in the U.S.; fear in China and Russia that the UN remains a threat to their interests; a state of political gridlock that prevents the organization from acting quickly against atrocities in places like Rwanda and Darfur. No surprise, then, that even some of the UN’s defenders are now calling for a new international body, an organization dedicated to fighting terrorism and enforcing the protection of civilians within member states. It all makes toasting the UN’s anniversary a highly delicate business. Its survival as a force for good— as a repository of our hopes—may be worth celebrating. But at this party, “you haven’t changed a bit” is no compliment. CHARLIE GILLIS
Quote of the week I ‘It’s going to happen. It’s a question of, Paul,
join the club, dude.’ BOB GELOOF takes the PM to task, because Canada has not committed to a plan to increase international aid to 0.7 per cent of national income by 2015, as other countries have done
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